When the New York Yankees lost first baseman Greg Bird to a shoulder injury, they also lost significant depth at first base.
One possible reinforcement that could have a huge impact on this team is James Loney, who was recently released by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Why? Two reasons:
- There’s no one as injury prone as their starting first baseman, Mark Teixeira, who has not played in a full season since 2011.
- Dustin Ackley is the furthest thing from a reputable first baseman.
Ackley, who would step in as the starting first baseman if Teixeira goes down, has a career .244/.306/.374 slash-line and his highest average in a full season of play is .245 (2014).
Defensively, he’s not the greatest go-to-option either. In his career as a first baseman (22 games), Ackley has committed five errors and has a -1 defensive runs saved above average.
The newest member of free agency, if signed, would bring over a reserve who could be penciled in the lineup with confidence.
Loney has a career slash-line of .285/.338/.411 and has batted .280+ along with playing in 100+ games in each of the past three seasons. In 2014, he led the league with 152 games played at first base.
In 1,295 career games at first, the 2002 first round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers has a .994 fielding percentage and +35 defensive runs saved above average.
In his career at Yankee Stadium, Loney has a .385/.429/.533 slash-line with four home runs and 19 RBI’s in 30 games.
The 31-year old is not going to bring tremendous pop to the lineup, but he’s a left handed bat that can hit for average and provide solid play at first.
He’s what I consider to be the perfect back up first baseman for the Yankees this season.
So what is general manager Brian Cashman waiting for?
The only way the Yankees can bring Loney to the Bronx is to sign him on a minor-league deal, as ESPN’s Buster Olney explained in a tweet this morning.
With Greg Bird out, James Loney would be a good fit for the NYY on a Class AAA deal, as a Teixeira safety net–if no MLB deal offered.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 2, 2016
If Loney wants to spend time on a winning team in 2016, and the Yankees want a reliable option in case a catastrophic injury puts Teixeira on the shelf, a deal needs to get done.
For the time being, however, it appears as if the Bombers are going with Ackley as the reserve, but things could change. One slump or, god forbid, one broken leg can prompt Cashman to make a move.